Redhawks attempt to remain in thick of OVC race

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Southeast is one game out of first entering this weekend's home series against Eastern Illinois.

Southeast Missouri State will try to remain in the hunt for the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season title when Eastern Illinois visits Capaha Field for a three-game weekend series.

There will be a 1 p.m. doubleheader today and a 1 p.m. contest Sunday.

The Redhawks (25-17, 10-5) are second in the OVC, one game behind Jacksonville State.

EIU (17-19, 7-7) stands fifth in the 10-team conference. The top six finishers qualify for the league tournament.

"Every conference series is big," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "Eastern Illinois has a good club and they've had a quality program going for a while now.

"We've had great games with them over the years and I don't expect this weekend to be any different. I look for a really tough series."

The Panthers enter the series with a four-game losing streak, and they have scored just three runs in their last three contests.

Southeast is coming off two straight mid-week losses to Memphis by a combined score of 31-14.

The Redhawks have dropped four of their last five games and are coming off their first OVC series loss of the season as host Austin Peay took two of three last weekend.

"We need to get our winning streak going again," Hogan said. "I think our club will bounce back this weekend."

EIU, batting .294 as a team to rank fifth in the OVC, features the league's top hitter in senior Erik Huber (.451), who ranked third nationally in the most recent NCAA statistics.

Also batting above .300 for the Panthers are senior Mark Chagnon (.341), sophomore Jordan Kreke (.310), freshman Richie Derbak (.309) and sophomore Brett Nommensen (.302).

EIU has only 16 home runs, compared to Southeast's league-leading 37 homers.

Southeast's .278 batting average ranks ninth in the conference, but the Redhawks have scored the OVC's second-most runs with 285.

The Redhawks feature six .300-plus hitters in senior Robby Moore (.343), senior Omar Padilla (.329), freshman Jim Klocke (.326), freshman Nick Harris (.321), senior Asif Shah (.310) and sophomore Matt Wagner (.304).

In the pitching department, Southeast had been ranked among the nation's top 30 in ERA until Memphis pounded second-line hurling for 31 runs in two games.

That performance inflated the Redhawks' ERA to 4.44, which has dropped the staff to second in the OVC, behind Austin Peay's 4.17 mark. But in conference play, Southeast's 3.82 ERA continues to lead the way.

The Redhawks will start their normal conference trio of junior right-hander Dustin Renfrow, senior left-hander Asif Shah and freshman left-hander Josh Syberg.

Renfrow (3-1, 1.69 ERA) will start today's nine-inning opener, followed by Shah (5-1, 2.63) in the seven-inning nightcap and Syberg (4-1, 3.59) in Sunday's nine-inning series finale.

Renfrow leads the OVC in ERA -- he is tied for 15th nationally -- while Shah is fourth in the conference and Syberg eighth.

EIU's 5.56 ERA is sixth in the league. The Panthers' top starter has been senior right-hander Chris Vaculik (4-5, 4.57).

"They've got a very dangerous offense, and it will be an interesting matchup against our pitching," Hogan said.

Free beer days

Today marks the first of the Southeast baseball events sponsored by the three local beer distributorships that will provide their products free of charge.

Kohlfeld Distributing will join with Health Facilities Rehab as today's sponsor. In addition to the beer, hot dogs and soda will also be provided.

Bluff City Beer will sponsor Wednesday's contest against Arkansas State, with River Eagle Distributing sponsoring the May 12 doubleheader against Morehead State.

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